It's been a while since I haven't written here. Lack of motivation, lack of inspiration... and Twitter has become my reflex.
Anyway, I guess I was waiting for the right subject, and now I have one that I have a lot to say about. See, I put a major check on my bucket list... On Labour Day week-end, I went to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. I had always dreamed of going there (well since 1986), and my friends and I decided to drive from Montreal to Cleveland and spend a few days there.
Now, I have to be honest and say that my friends fell in love with the city, but were a bit disappointed by the HOF. It takes a long time to see all of it, so you probably won't get to see everything in one visit. And that is apart from the fact that the HOF has collected so much stuff there has to be a rotation. This means there might not be things that belonged to your favourite band, and even if there is you might miss it. (I didn't see anything of Queen's and was hoping to, and my friend missed the Black Sabbath wall)
Another comment one of my friends made was that there wasn't much to learn. I think he is right in the sense that he expected something more didactic, but got a museum instead. However, for a rock nerd like myself who already knows the roots and has a good general knowledge of Rock, this is perfect, and an 'introduction to the world of Rock' type thing would have been quite redundant. My friend enjoyed his experience anyway though (I did the narrating and commenting). Just get your expectations straight: it's a showcase of Rock memorabilia. But it's a great one.
Personally, I loved my experience there. That may well be because I knew what to expect, and got what I expected. (Plus I was damn excited to just BE there. If I lived closer to Cleveland (it's a 10-hour drive from Montreal) I would definitely have a yearly membership to the HOF (it costs 50$ for a year and 22$ for one visit...) and I would go there every time they change the exhibits or change the memorabilia. I wish I'd had more time: in 4 hours I saw about a third of the HOF.
What I loved:
- The Rolling Stones room
- The Beatles room
- Jimi Hendix's couch
- The part of the HOF that is classified by city and important period or genre (for example, San Francisco is all about the 60's and LSD inspired rock, and Seattle is all about Grunge)
- The huge Pink Floyd Wall
- Doris, the tipping-scale sculpture from the And Justice for All tour
- All the costumes : Bowie, Iggy Pop, Bjork and Annie Lennox to name a few
What I didn't like : the temporary exhibit, Women who Rock, was quite small and in my opinion some of the choices were questionable. Lady Gaga (though I love her and WAS glad to see the meat dress), Taylor Swift, the Underwood girl from American Idol and Christina Aguilera getting as much exposure as Patti Smith, Joan Jett, Heart and Meg White is just not quite right for the setting. This brings me to my only other negative comment.
In my opinion, way too much of the (already limited) HOF space is dedicated to artists and bands that are related to rock only remotely, and sometimes not at all. Blues, Jazz, RnB in the roots section on the first floor, sure, absolutely. Including some country, folk and pop-rock, ok. But a huge picture of Madonna right at the entrance? I know she is an icon, but she is not a rock icon. The same goes for Michael Jackson, however important a performer he was. Not to mention ABBA and Britney Spears (though to be fair she is not an inductee). I guess you can't not mention Madonna and Jackson, but there shouldn't be so much importance put on them in the temple of rock music. I understand the idea is to be inclusive, but I think the HOF is getting a little too far away from it's mission and ends up spreading itself too thin. I am a bit of a purist, sure, but my friend who is mostly into pop culture said the same thing, without being prompted. And anyway, who goes to the HOF expecting something other than a Rock n' Roll overload?
So, should you go to the HOF? Absolutely. Is it worth the price of the ticket? If you have the right expectations and enough time, absolutely. Was it worth a 10-hour road trip? For a rock nerd who likes memorabilia, most definitely.
I'll finish with some praise for Cleveland. It should really be on your list of places to visit.
There is a whole lot to see and do in Cleveland, even though most people asked 'what the hell is in Cleveland' when they heard I was going there on a road trip. This City lacks exposure and has to compete with Chicago and New York, that's the real issue. Beautiful architecture, clean wide streets, beautiful parks with astonishing statues and fountains, two awesome stadiums (I got to see a baseball game!!! Go Indians!!).
Let's not forget Lake Erie, and the great sandy beach in Edgewater park (8$ cab ride from downtown Cleveland). All sorts of landmarks tell the progressive, pro-working class, tolerant, open-minded, left-leaning story of Cleveland and its people. And did you know Cleveland has a big cluster of theaters, downtown, in what they call the Playhouse District? Yeah I didn't either!
Cleveland is filled with reasonably-priced restaurants that serve great food, from Guiness stuffed and fried mushrooms at Flannery's Iris Pub to deliciously authentic Cajun food and a 22$ bottle of Pinot Grigio at the House of Blues, and even a fantastic and huge tuna tataki for 15$ at Louie's. Add one of their wonderful dirty martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives and you'll never want to leave.
Hotels downtown are cheap, especially on the week-end and if you book through hotels.com (this is not a plug, we actually shopped around and they had the best prices). From the hotels downtown, you can walk to the tourist attractions (no traps!) and to a lot of bars and clubs, but since Cleveland spreads out for miles and miles, you might want to ask the locals to point you to smaller more unique places to go out. And they'll be happy to do it: everybody we met in Cleveland, whether they were working at the places we went to or just random people hanging out, were amazing. Every one we talked to was nice, open, proud of the city and its imminent comeback (population went from 1 million to 500 000, but things are picking up now). People in Cleveland glow when you say you love it there, they are very helpful and will gladly give you suggestions of cool places to go to.
All around, sincerely, Cleveland is a great place to visit, and it has tremendous untapped potential. I highly recommend it, and would go back in a heart beat. Put simply, it is true, I saw it with my own eyes: Cleveland Rocks.
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